You’re most likely familiar with the “standard” type of civil engineer, somebody who designs, plans, and builds infrastructure.
They may also be involved with new projects. For example, engineers work on residential, industrial, and commercial building projects. However, there are many other types of civil engineers, including:
- Construction and Management Engineers
- Structural Engineers
- Transportation Engineers
- Geotechnical Engineers
The first step in becoming a civil engineer is to get a bachelor’s degree from a college of engineering. This is the minimum level of education accepted by employers. Fortunately, civil engineering is a popular program. It’s offered by hundreds of institutions across the country. A bachelor’s degree in engineering takes four years to complete if you study full-time.
However, these programs are also highly competitive. Many have fairly strict entry requirements. So, choosing the right college and the right program is the first of many important steps to take on your journey towards becoming a qualified civil engineer.
Related: What is Civil Engineering Technology?
What are the Best Civil Engineer Colleges?
Before choosing any program or university, you should always do your due diligence. This means checking the university’s website, looking at how the institution ranks for certain subjects, and investigating what kind of facilities the college provides. This will help you find the civil engineering best colleges.
For example, a college of engineering might partner with major employers. This gives you the chance to get hands-on experience during your studies. Others may offer unique study-abroad programs. This allows you to learn from experts in other regions of the world. Researching your prospective colleges allows you to make the right choice while avoiding missed opportunities. After all, you’re paying a lot to get your college degree!
So, we’ve looked at the rankings from U.S. News & World Report to find the best colleges with civil engineering major. According to U.S. News, which is one of the most well-regarded ranking agencies in the nation, these colleges have the best civil engineering programs in the United States:
- University of California — Berkeley
- University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
- University of Michigan — Ann Arbor
- University of Texas — Austin (Cockrell)
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Purdue University — West Lafayette
- Virginia Tech
- Cornell University
- California Institute of Technology
The colleges that offer civil engineering listed above are just a sampling of potential engineering schools. They represent the top 12 programs, but U.S. News lists 150 programs on their ranking of schools that offer civil engineering. It’s worth your while to explore the complete list to see which other programs might be suitable for your educational and career goals.
It should be noted that the rankings by U.S. News aren’t the only factor you should consider when deciding what the best colleges with civil engineering programs might be. Other important considerations to make include:
- Expense – How much are tuition, fees, and other associated costs?
- Financial aid – How much aid is a school willing to provide?
- Location – Is the school in a location you find desirable? Fortunately, there are engineering programs across the nation, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, Houston to Durham. Schools like Columbia University and Notre Dame have engineering programs as well.
- Online learning – Does the school have an online degree program in engineering?
- Specialty – Does the school offer courses or a degree program in your desired specialty? A school in Evanston might offer a specialty that a school in Ithaca might lack. Or, Pittsburgh might have the specialty you want while a school in Atlanta might not.
- Campus life – If you study on campus, does the school offer the activities you enjoy?
- Accreditation – Is the school nationally or regionally accredited?
A further accreditation consideration to make is if the program is accredited by ABET. According to the ABET website, the organization is a “nonprofit, ISO 9001 certified organization that accredits college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.”
It is very likely that most, if not all, engineering firms require their engineers to have a degree from an ABET-accredited school. Therefore, it’s critically important that you check each school on your list for ABET accreditation.
Given the list above, you can see just how complex the decision-making process can be when choosing the right colleges with civil engineering majors. While exploring colleges can be exciting, it’s a long process that requires you to make some very tough decisions!
What Should I Major in for Civil Engineering?
Aspiring civil engineers most often pursue a bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering. Civil engineering degree programs provide you with the necessary education required to obtain the necessary licensure. Additionally, getting a degree is the first step in finding a role within the engineering industry.
The degrees from the best colleges for civil engineering obviously feature courses focused on engineering, such as:
- Civil Engineering Systems
- Elementary Mechanics of Fluids
- Engineering Professionalism
- Structural Analysis
- Geotechnical Engineering
But you will also take physics, math, and statistics. Coursework in chemistry and architectural planning and design is also common at civil engineer universities. Additionally, you’ll get training in how to use the most common CAD (Computer Assisted Design) software programs employed by civil engineers.
Once you’ve chosen a school of engineering and enrollment is complete, you should consider the specialization or concentration tracks that are available. Many engineering students choose to follow a particular area of specialization, which could include:
- Structural Engineering
- Land Development
- Construction Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Transportation Engineering
You might also specialize in Geotechnical Engineering, Water Resources Engineering (e.g., water supply), or Pavements and Materials Engineering. There are many different options at civil engineering major colleges to suit your particular interests and skillset.
You may also have the opportunity to pursue an internship. This would provide valuable hands-on experience in your preferred subfield. It could improve your chances of securing a job after graduation as well.
What Classes Should I Take in College to Become a Civil Engineer?
Most civil engineers working in the construction industry have a bachelor’s degree. Some recruiters have begun looking for candidates who have also completed a master’s degree. In graduate programs, you’ll typically specialize to a greater extent in one particular subfield of civil engineering. In a bachelor’s degree program at colleges for civil engineers, however, you should choose electives that will help build your foundational knowledge in all areas relating to the profession.
The first step is choosing your degree program. There are many civil engineering degree programs available. Some civil engineers have come from closely related fields, such as environmental science. Whatever your choice of program, you’ll need to have a strong record of academic achievement in the areas of:
- Computer Science
- Applied Science
In terms of electives, or when choosing a school of engineering and curriculum in general, bear in mind that there will likely be a broad selection of courses to choose from. Each course relates to one or more different subfields of engineering. Courses might include topics such as:
- Introduction to Civil Engineering
- Structural Analysis
- Geotechnical Engineering
- Construction Management
Are there Licenses or Certifications I Need After Graduation?
You can get an entry-level engineering position with a bachelor’s degree. These positions usually don’t require having a license or certification.
However, if you want to advance your career further, you might want to pursue a Professional Engineering (PE) license. This credential allows you to:
- Approve design plans and projects
- Oversee work done by other engineers
- Provide engineering services to the general public
A Professional Engineer can also look forward to higher pay because of the larger set of responsibilities.
To become a PE, you’ll need to meet the specific licensure requirements established by the state in which you work. States have different requirements, so you’ll need to check with the licensure board to learn the specific criteria you need to meet. However, licensure is usually dependent upon:
- Having a degree from an ABET-accredited program
- Earning a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Earning a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
- Having at least four years of relevant, supervised work experience
The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The test is specifically designed for people with an undergraduate degree in engineering or those who are near graduation. The exam is computer-based, includes 110 questions, and takes six hours to complete.
Taking and passing the FE exam is just the first step, though. At that point, you might earn the title “Engineer in Training,” or EIT, or Engineer Intern, or EI. To be eligible to sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, you must complete at least four years of work experience after graduation. The PE exam is administered by NCEES. There are 16 specialized exams, each for a specific engineering discipline. For example, you can take the exam in:
- Control Systems
- Fire Protection
- Nuclear Engineering
- Petroleum Engineering
- Civil Engineering
As for civil engineering certifications, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) offers certifications in:
- Coastal Engineering
- Navigation Engineering
- Ports Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineering
- Ocean Engineering
- Water Resources Engineering
To achieve ASCE board certification, you must have a PE license and a master’s degree. You must also have at least eight years of post-licensure work experience.
Of course, to get to the point of ASCE certification, you must first embark on your undergraduate education. Use the tools and resources provided here to help you find civil engineering colleges and get on the path to becoming a civil engineer.